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Patient Education

The Menopause Years

Menopause is the time in a woman's life when she stops having menstrual periods. The years leading up to this point are called perimenopause, or "around menopause." Menopause marks the end of the reproductive years that began in puberty. The average age that women go through menopause is 51 years. Most women enjoy a healthy lifestyle for years afterward.

What Is Menopause?

The Gynecologic Visit

Routine visits to your doctor for breast, pelvic, and rectal exams are recommended for all women. Your doctor will do a Pap test to check for cancer of the cervix. Between visits you should perform a breast self-exam once a month.

Depending on your age, your doctor may recommend that you have a mammogram. (Women older than 40 years should have a mammogram every one to two years, and then every year beginning at age 50 years.)

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy (HT) can help relieve the symptoms of menopause. It replaces female hormones no longer made by the ovaries. Depending on your situation, you may begin HT before menopause. If you are taking birth control pills, they will be stopped when you begin treatment.

Other Therapies

Women also can take selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) to help prevent some of the bone problems that can occur during menopause. SERMs are a type of medication that strengthen tissues of the bones.

If a woman does not take hormone therapy or SERMs, there are some other options for preventing bone loss. A medication called calcitonin slows the breaking down of bone. Other medications used to slow bone breakdown are bisphosphonates.

Staying Healthy

Finally...

Menopause is a natural event. Today, women can expect to live one third of their lives after menopause. The physical changes that occur around menopause should not prevent you from enjoying this time of your life.

This excerpt from ACOG's Patient Education Pamphlet is provided for your information. It is not medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for visiting your doctor. If you need medical care, have any questions, or wish to receive the full text of this Patient Education Pamphlet, please contact your obstetrician-gynecologist.
To ensure the information is current and accurate, ACOG titles are reviewed every 18 months.
Copyright © March 2003 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists